AUBURN — The City Council approved a new type of zoning for the city’s core residential area surrounding Court Street during a first reading Tuesday, with officials waiting for a Planning Board opinion.

The zoning, known as T-4.2B, was created following concerns from neighborhood residents over the previous iteration that allows for more variety of housing types and commercial uses in mostly single-family neighborhoods. However, a number of residents, including those behind a citizens’ petition effort, argue that the new zoning has been created without sufficient input from the public and needs more public support to ultimately be successful.

Prior to the 5-2 vote to approve it Tuesday, several residents said the city should table the discussion until the council receives a Planning Board recommendation next week. The council is scheduled to take up a final reading Sept. 19.

The group known as Citizens for Sensible Growth successfully petitioned the city to repeal the previous T-4.2 zoning in the area due to concerns over multiunit apartment buildings and businesses popping up in single-family neighborhoods. City officials have said that in the short window when it was in place, the zoning led to building renovations and additions that wouldn’t have previously been allowed.

It also led to the development of the Stable Ridge Apartments on outer Court Street.

The T-4.2B zone is similar, but either removes some commercial uses or makes them only allowable with special exception by the Planning Board.


City staff said Tuesday that making the change in the “city core” will increase housing types, concentrate development where infrastructure exists and encourage walkability.

City Manager Phil Crowell said during the meeting that the city’s legal counsel gave the opinion that the scheduled order of hearings toward implementation is allowed.

A majority of the council argued that the overall zone change will be good for the city, bringing many buildings back into conformance and allowing more flexibility for property owners at a time when people are looking for more solutions to the housing shortage and higher prices.

“I don’t think it’s going to cause massive problems in the city,” Councilor Steve Milks said, adding that he “respectfully disagrees” with those opposed.

Councilor Dana Staples, who was part of the initial Comprehensive Plan Committee that recommended a shift to form-based code downtown, said, “I think this zoning is a step in the right direction and will get us to a point that allows us to have neighborhoods that aren’t just single-family houses.”

Councilors Belinda Gerry and Rick Whiting voted in opposition.


Eric Cousens, director of Planning and Permitting, said the city has received hundreds of calls from residents wondering how the changes could effect where they live. A presentation Tuesday attempted to answer many of the questions, including a breakdown of which parcels could be available for potential development in the future.

He said of the 1,687 acres included in the area, more than half are already occupied by single-family homes or would not support more than a four-unit building due to lot size. He said 80% of the lots would not support more than eight units.

“Many lots are small and already built on, likely limiting additional development to infill housing opportunities and freedom for property owners to add additional units or make improvements to existing homes,” his memo said.

The bulk of what could see multiunit development, he said, is on parcels over five acres, which make up 390 acres of the area.

He showed some examples of residential streets in the area that have similar or higher densities than the 16 units per acre standard under T-4.2B, including Hazel and Jocelyn streets.

During the hearing, some brought up LD 2003, the state legislation crafted to address the housing shortage. Councilor Whiting argued the city should wait until the state legislation is finalized before making changes that could contradict or confuse the state law.


Others, such as Beth Bell, an Auburn-based real estate agent, said she hopes the state legislation isn’t forcing the city to make decisions before needing to. She said the average person is uninformed about what the changes mean and the proposal is “taking on too big of an area too quickly.”

“I personally don’t think you’re going to get the desired effect,” she said, adding that as a real estate agent, she’s concerned for more people being upset about the zoning “rather than thinking of the opportunities available to them.”

Pam Rousseau said the zoning is too much of a “one-size-fits-all” approach, with more rural areas lumped in with the downtown streets.

Pat Phillips said she lives in one of those areas. She asked officials to make the rezoning efforts throughout the city more of a “community effort.”

“A lot of this stuff is jargon that the common person doesn’t know,” she said.

Jeff Harmon, who was behind the zoning petition effort, said the zoning types under consideration all have a place in Auburn, but said “it’s how you go about implementing it.”


“Lots of people consider this an end-run around the petition,” he said, adding that the city is doing the “bare minimum” it’s legally required to do to pass the new zoning.


Also on Tuesday, the council repealed the March rezoning of land between Gracelawn Road and Lake Auburn due to a petition effort.

In a 4-3 vote, the council repealed the zoning shift to general business, which reverts the land back to the agricultural zone. Stephen Beal, one of the petitioners behind the effort, said the council should instead send the issue to voters, arguing they “would have more confidence, not knowing what actions may occur in the immediate future.”

The city is also fielding a zone change petition from landowner John Gendron, which seeks to rezone a portion of the land in question to T-4.2. If approved, Gendron has plans to develop it into housing.

The initial citizens’ petition centered on a debate over whether development should take place on land near Lake Auburn, and the question about whether the parcel should be considered part of the watershed is central to a lawsuit from Lewiston against the Auburn Water District.

Councilors Staples, Whiting and Gerry opposed the repeal.

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